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February 24, 2017

Insecurity: A threat to farming

Governments all over the country, both Federal and States, have continued to shout it loud and clear that there is need to deemphasize our over-dependence on oil, in favour of the Agricultural sector.
Although experts have come up with numerous slogans calling on Nigerians to go back to farm as the surest way of growing the economy, hardly any government seems prepared to give what it takes to nip in the bud the various challenges facing farmers.
Top among these challenges is the insecurity to famers lives and crops.  The security challenges take different forms in different parts of the country.  While in the North East, fear of Boko Haram would not allow farmers get to their farms, in the South East and North Central, Fulani Herdsmen slaughter at will any farmer that would not let his farm be turned into grazing land for cattle. In the South South and parts of South East, militants and rival cult groups sack whole communities, vandalize farmlands, kidnap and rape women found alone in farms.
In all these incidents, government appears not to know the decisive action to take to put an end to the menace, thus fuelling the impression that the perpetrators of these crimes enjoy subtle protection from government.
We recall that the most gruesome killings by herdsmen which occurred in Agatu, Benue State and Ukpabi Nimbo, and Uzo-Uwani communities in Enugu, early this year, drew anger from across the country.  Despite the outrage over the activities of herdsmen, their blood letting has continued to rise in frequency and intensity all over the country.  Nigerians are not happy that there have been no arrests, prosecutions or convictions of the perpetrators and their sponsors.  Recent news reports show that over 30 people were killed by herdsmen at Adamawa two weeks ago.  The same thing occurred at GadaBiyu, Akwa’a and Agwan Ajo villages where herdsmen massacred many villagers.
Since this year, the activities of  the so-called militants and rival cult groups have made food production in Ohaji-Egbema Local Government Area, believed to be the food Basket of Imo State, impossible. Awarra, Assa and Obetti communities also major food- producing areas of the state were sacked early in the year by militants/cult groups, whose motive is difficult to discern.  Many indigenes of the area lost their lives in the on-slaught that followed the clashes allegedly sponsored by prominent personalities in the communities. The exodus from the community to neigbouring towns means that hardly anybody farmed this year.
The impact of these crises on food production is better imagined than described.  Till today, many of those who ran away for dear life are yet to return to their homes, (while  many of their houses were razed down by the hoodlums).  In other farming areas, it is the fear of kidnappers that keep people from their farms, especially women trying to avoid rape. And the majority of farmers are woman!   This points to imminent hunger and famine.
What worries Nigerians most is the indifference and apathy displayed by security agencies when called in to save the situation.  Some security operatives prefer rounding up youths and elders who gather to deliberate over the threat on their lives and property, rather than arrest the hoodlums.
In order to check these incessant insecurity threats to farmers, the security agencies should take policing of the affected states more seriously.  This dangerous trend must be curbed through prompt arrest, prosecution and conviction of the perpetrators and their sponsors.  Nothing short of this will suffice.

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